51 years ago, a network of clergy helped women seeking abortion

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On its 50th anniversary one year ago, NPR highlighted the work of an underground network of religious leaders who helped women get abortions in the United States before they were legal, called the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion.

One woman, Loey Powell, sought refuge in their care when she discovered she was pregnant at 19 years old.

“To be with someone who was non-judgmental, who was not making assumptions either about the circumstances of how I got pregnant or what the consequences are of that situation, it was very positive for me to go through that.”

While religion may seem an unlikely place for abortion activism to find a home, the pairing actually makes a lot of sense.

We’ve learned through our work providing family planning around the world that faith leaders can play a crucial role in dispelling myths and misconceptions about contraception.

In January, for example, the Christian Science Monitor wrote about Marie Stopes Senegal’s successful work incorporating imams—local religious leaders—into their education programs. The approach has opened new doors for reproductive health in a country that is 90 percent Muslim where contraception has traditionally been difficult to access.

As we celebrate more than 45 years of legal abortion access in the United States this year, we’re grateful for faith leaders at home and abroad who continue working toward reproductive choice for all.

Our Global Impact Last Year


women using a MSI
method of contraception


unintended pregnancies


unsafe abortions prevented


pregnancy-related deaths prevented